“I Don’t Want to Be Ordinary” — Can This Woman Escape the Ordinary?

Do you want to escape the ordinary? Do you dream of the day you can say goodbye to your job and travel? It's completely possible. Life is what you make it.

A Reader Says: I Don't Want to Be OrdinaryHere’s a recent reader question that grabbed my heart. One reader said:

“I am a single woman with children who believes I can live a great life traveling and making life grand, in spite of the statistics out there. Do you think its possible? Can you offer some saving/investing tips?”

I’m so glad you wrote to me. YES, I think it’s possible to live any life that you desire. I absolutely, completely, 100 percent believe that.

Ignore the statistics. You’re not a stat. You’re an outlier. The upper end of the bell curve. You’re unique.

How do I know that? Because you dared to ask. You wrote to me — a complete stranger — for advice. Most people wouldn’t do that. Most people would sit on the couch watching American Idol reruns.

Most people — regardless of their age, income, family or financial situation — don’t have the courage to dream big. Most people spend the whole day saying self-defeating things like:

  • “I’ll never be rich.”
  • “I could never afford that.”
  • “People like me don’t get to do things like that.”
  • “Good for her, she gets to galavant and have fun, but I have to (fill-in-the-blank with crummy obligation).”

And you know what? Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — either way, you’re right. Life is completely what you make it. Especially if you live in a free, first-world country. Then there’s really nothing stopping you.

Regarding the second half of your question — do I have any saving or investing advice? Of course I do. But I won’t tell you to clip coupons (ugghh) or invest in index funds (though I love ’em!), because those are tactics, and tactical maneuvers are secondary.

The best advice I can give anyone is to align your spending with your values and priorities.

Almost every financial stress that I see is the result of people spending in a way that’s misaligned with their priorities. It leads to staggering debt, bankrupt college funds, meager retirements, and — perhaps most terrifying of all — cubicle jobs. Eek!

But when you can kick back and say, “The most critical thing is food, water, medicine and safety. Let me make sure I can pay for that, not just today but years into the future. And after that, my real dream is …”

That’s the moment when driving an old car no longer feels like a sacrifice. Would you rather drive an Audi or quit your crummy cubicle job? Would you rather have granite countertops, or the flexibility to take a major career risk?

(By the way, I realize I might sound like I’m anti-luxury items. I’m not. I’m pro-anything that’s a conscious priority. And I’m anti-anything that’s not.)

In my own experience:

When I was 22, I wanted to travel more than anything else in the world. I wanted it so badly I could taste it. I thought about it constantly. And I aligned my spending with this top value.

That meant that I lived incredibly frugally. I lived in a tiny, tiny studio apartment (I could reach the kitchen sink from the bed — I’m not kidding.) I drove a car that was older than me. I wore thrift-store clothes. And I saved almost $30,000, which allowed me to travel the world nonstop for more than two years.

But another example:

Right now, my priorities have shifted. I don’t want to do a two-year round-the-world trip anymore. I want to build streams of passive income — so that my money can buy time. I want to live in a comfortable home, work on a MacBook, and enjoy a gym membership — even if it comes at the expense of travel. So my spending has shifted to align with my new priorities.

That’s what it’s really all about. All the details that financial bloggers talk about — insurance premiums, coupons, the price of gas — those are all just details. That’s minutia.

Step back and take the big-picture view: is your money flowing in the same direction as your values and priorities? If so, you’re in the right place. If not, make a change.

It’s as simple as that.


  1. says

    Paula, you hit the nail on the head. WE get in our own way because we have those self-defeating internal dialogues in our head as you wrote:

    “I’ll never be rich.”
    “I could never afford that.”

    A lot of people simply do not want to make the sacrifices that are necessary to: travel, leave the job they hate, write their first book, etc. Not to sound trite, but most “want their cake and to eat it too.”

    Unfortunately, as with anything in life, there are sacrifices; some may be greater than others, but there are always choices. I’m definitely not anti-luxury either; however, over the past 4 years I’ve shifted my priorities to other things that are more important, and trust me it’s been with great sacrifice. I was one of those people who spent $65+ on a bottle of lotion…but guess what, I’m just as happy today with my wonderful Bodycology lotion (that cost $3.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond) or my Ulta lotion. Big and small sacrifices have allowed me to work on endeavors that I WANT for my life.

    • says

      @Chante — Exactly, plenty of people want it all. Someone once accidentally referred to this site as “Afford Everything,” which made me laugh. You can afford anything, but not everything. So by trading $65 lotion for $4 lotion, you have an extra $61 to dedicate towards something truly awesome … like getting un-stuck from a cubicle job!

  2. says

    Hello Paula,

    Let me tell you first that I came across your blog a few months ago and have read every post to date. I love your writing technique and your words are so motivating!

    I’m a 24 year old with a bachelor’s degree… I went to school in Boston & paid for those four year completely with loans :( If I could go back in time I would because I am paying for it now… My senior year of college I changed my major three times because I was not satisfied and I wanted more.. I ended up with a degree in Business which is very generic but also can do a lot with..

    I’m very good with money, I live on my own but I am in so much debt from school I feel like I will never see the end of the tunnel…

    I just hit a 1 year mark with a job that Im so over!! (Cubicle)

    I just feel so stuck it’s sickening.. Your blogs are so inspiring and I’d love to just do what I feel passionate about but I have so many bills I feel stuck.

    My advice would be: I try to pay on my loans the full amount.. I have three loans that I have not consolidated because each loan has a different payment. Should I consolidate? Would this help me in the long run?

    Have you ever come across someone in my position? I’d love to hear a similar story of someone who has overcome this…

    Any words of advice would be so great.

    Thank you for your blog I love it!

    Have a great day,


    • says

      Thanks Nicollette! If you consolidate your loans, can you get a lower interest rate? And if there’s a cost associated with consolidation, will the lower interest rate more-than make up for that cost? If so, then go ahead and consolidate. If not, then focus on paying the debts off, one at a time.

      There are two ways to do it: either pay off the smallest debt first, regardless of interest rate (the debt “snowball” tactic) or pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, regardless of its overall balance (the debt “stacking” tactic). Pick whichever one fits your personality best. The most important thing is that you pick one of those two, and start aggressively paying them down hard. That means skipping out on restaurants and new clothes, at least for a short period of time. And it means perhaps also picking up some side jobs, like a weekend babysitting gig, just for a few months until you’ve made a big dent in that debt.

      Once your debt is gone, and you’ve got some cash in the bank … you’ll feel much, much less glued to that awful cubicle. :-)

  3. says

    I too believe you can do anything you want to do. All you need is a goal and a plan. When I was 30-31 years old, I set a goal of financial independence before I turned 40. I beat my own goal by nearly 2 years. I did it through income property.

    • says

      @krantcents — So you basically achieved financial independence in 9-10 years! Nice job! I’ve been working on financial independence for two years. Let’s see if I can do it as fast as you did!

  4. says

    Paula, that reminds me of my aunt, God rest her soul. She spent her life working at a well-known Fortune 500 food company, but saved her money and went around the world at least 3 times. She shopped in the best stores in the city, lived well, and had the 1st black & white Christmas tree I’d ever seen! When she passed away, she had so many stock options and savings that she left 12 nieces & nephews [including me] almost $100k each. Your exhortations are really similar, which is why I like your blog so much. The bottom line is – how bad do you want it? Bad enough to forego the miscellany, and work towards what’s really going to benefit your life. God Bless.

    • says

      @JuliaSB — She sounds like an amazing person! She lived life to the fullest, and didn’t deprive herself but also didn’t waste money, either. It sounds like her spending habits were well-aligned with her values. What a wonderful role model!

      I have a little miniature (2-feet tall) silver Christmas tree, with dark pink ornaments. I love simple, two-color trees. :-)

  5. says

    “Is your money flowing in the same direction as your values?”. What a great quote. Most folks spend a large chunk of their incomes on stuff they don’t actually like. Stuff that they’ve been told that they need, like a new car, or expensive clothing. You only really need what aligns with your deepest desires, beyond food and water…

  6. says

    Great post, and as usual very inspirational.

    It is very important to align your values with where you money go. So, cutting on things that you don’t value that much, will feel easier, and you will be able to enjoy more things that you value.

  7. says

    Great post Paula! I agree with you to “align your spending with your values and priorities.” The other part of the equation is to take action, take actions that drive you closer to your goals. Which means don’t waste time watching TV, playing video games, or other useless tasks.

    Create goals, and then work towards achieving those goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *